Tennessee needed a big win in a big way. And they were able to pull it off in front of a sold out Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday night.
The No. 23 Vols (10-4, 1-2) got off to an ugly start on offense and defense both as they hosted No. 17 Kentucky (12-3, 2-1). But a second half explosion propelled the Vols to a much needed SEC victory, as they handed Kentucky a 76-65 loss in Knoxville.
The Vols’ win over the Wildcats was Tennessee’s first conference win of the season, and it came after Tennessee gave away games against Arkansas and Auburn to open up their SEC schedule.
Tennessee was outscored 37-29 in the first half. But the Vols’ offense finally found their rhythm in the second half, and they opened up the second half on a 14-6 run to tie it up at 43-all.
Then Tennessee turned up the intensity even more, and they controlled the rest of the game.
Here are our three biggest takeaways from the Vols’ 76-65 victory over Kentucky.
A Tale of Two Halves
Tennessee looked listless and out-matched in the beginning of this game. Kentucky had their way and was dominating down low and on defense as they held a 37-29 advantage at the half.
Then the second half started, and the Vols looked like a completely different team.
The Vols mounted a massive comeback and outscored Kentucky 47-28 in the second half. That comeback was spearheaded by Grant Williams, as he scored 16 of his 18 total points in the second half.
Williams didn’t make a single one of his four field goal attempts in the first half. But he was nearly perfect in the second half, sinking seven of his nine attempts and adding eight rebounds and four assists to his 18 total points.
Lamonte Turner also had a strong second half, as he scored nine of his 11 points in the second half and drained two big three-pointers. He also had five assists and four rebounds.
Admiral Schofield led the way with 20 points and added nine rebounds and four assists. Kyle Alexander had nine points and five rebounds, and James Daniel III had three points, three rebounds, and a game-high six assists.
The Vols out-rebounded Kentucky and ended up with 14 points off turnovers in the second half after only scoring two points off turnovers in the first half. Tennessee forced 16 Kentucky turnovers in the game, and nine of those came in the second half.
Nearly Perfect Efficiency
Tennessee made 25 field goals in the game. And they picked up assists on 23 of them. That’s an incredibly high assist-to-field goal ratio.
The Vols only turned the ball over 12 times in the game, and that includes just four turnovers in the second half. Tennessee had an assist on every basket they made in the first half, and they got an assist on 15 of their 17 made field goals in the second half.
Tennessee shot 54.8 percent from the court in the second half and connected on 75 percent of their 24 free throws in the game.
Barnes Owns Kentucky in Knoxville
For the third straight time, Tennessee has beaten Kentucky at home. And that’s something that no other team has ever done against John Calipari.
No other team has ever beaten Calipari three straight times at home, and it’s the first time since 1979-85 that the Vols have beaten the Wildcats three or more consecutive times in Knoxville. Tennessee beat Kentucky seven straight times in Knoxville from 1979-85.
Rick Barnes is now 3-1 against Kentucky in Knoxville.